Column: Utah Employees Should Welcome 4-day Workweek

This story was written by Jeffrey Jenkins, Daily Utah Chronicle

While gas continues rising to more than $4 per gallon, many Utahns are feeling the crunch that commuting to work five days a week has on their budgets.

Many state offices with state vehicles are also feeling the effects. In an attempt to mitigate these fiscal challenges, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has mandated a four-day workweek for many state employees. The decision by Huntsman marks a growing interest in the four-day work week throughout the country.

Mayor Larry Langford of Birmingham, Ala., made the switch in an effort to save city employees' money. Idaho, Arkansas and New Mexico are also considering converting to a four-day work week, and many small counties across the country have also shortened the workweek or are considering doing so.

Huntsman's Working 4 Utah experiment is the first mandated statewide program of its type. The program, starting in August, will have employees working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The program will do more than just save state employees' money and give them an extra day to spend with family or pursue leisure activities. Officials at the governor's office have estimated a four-day workweek will save the state budget $3 million annually in energy costs.

"We feel like we can reduce CO2 by around 3,000 metric tons," said Kim Hood, head administrator in the Department of Administrative Services.

Huntsman is also aware of some of the concerns employees have and stated in an interview that his cabinet is working on the issues of day care and public transportation for state employees. Many non-state employees have concerns about acquiring a fishing or hunting license or renewing a driver license, but Huntsman made it clear that all of these services and a myriad of others can be performed online.

Shortening the workweek will have a positive effect on the state employees and Utah residents. State offices that usually operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. are difficult for many citizens to go to because of their conflicting work schedule. Extending the hours at state offices will provide individuals with an opportunity to go before or after work.

"If the public can accept the change, I feel there is tremendous potential and benefits," said Bruce Whittington, assistant director for the Division of Facilities and Construction Management, regarding the new schedule.

For people who are still unable to make it to state offices during the extended hours, much of the services provided can be found conveniently on the Internet.

Huntsman's Working 4 Utah initiative will put more money in the pockets of state employees and in the state budget by requiring four days of commuting instead of five and reducing the power consumption in state offices. It will make the state offices more convenient for other conventional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. employees, and it will reduce the amount of emissions and gas consumed. Most importantly, it will give people back to their families and hobbies one more day a week.